Beergate: Why Starmer’s pledge to quit if fined looks like a desperate gamble | Politics News


It had already been called a “prawn Balti-matum”.

But Sir Keir Starmer’s pledge to quit if he’s fined over “beer-gate” looks like a desperate gamble.

After being backed into a korma for days, the Labour leader certainly came out fighting. But he looked tense and his nine-minute statement was clearly rehearsed.

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We now know why he pulled out of a speech to the policy wonks of the Institute for Government and – rudely, his critics would claim – missed the memorial service for former Tory minister James Brokenshire.

His statement was obviously an attempt to set the record straight.

But even his most loyal supporters would say it was a statement he should have made weeks ago.

Angela Rayner, who Labour initially denied had been present at the “beergate” curry, later said she would also quit if she’s fined.

Bet she’s delighted at being dragged back into the Starmer drama.

As he gripped the lectern during his monologue at Labour HQ, there was a change of tone from Sir Keir’s previous complacent and misleading statements on the “beergate” allegations.

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Starmer: ‘I would do the right thing’

No mention now of “mud-slinging” by Tory MPs.

He used the words “honour” and “integrity” several times, spitting them out like a diner suddenly confronted by a fiery red chilli in his vindaloo.

After days of sweating over the “beergate” allegations, the Labour leader’s change of tactics were forced by revelations as explosive as a steamy phaal in two Sunday newspapers.

First, the Mail on Sunday revealed that a leaked Labour Party document suggested the curry in the Durham Miners’ Hall last year had been planned in advance, despite previous denials and bluster.

The document, headed “LOTO (Leader of the Opposition) visits and events”, listed “dinner in miners’ hall with (City of Durham MP) Mary Foy”, followed by “walk to Miners’ Hall to Radisson Blu” and “end of visit”.

Then a whistleblower told The Sunday Times Sir Keir did not return to work after eating, as he previously claimed. “There was no work done after the curry,” the source claimed.

Suddenly, Sir Keir’s excuses shattered like a poppadom. How much work was done after the curry? Naan, it was revealed, contrary to his earlier claims.

The charge against the Labour leader from his political opponents has been self-righteous hypocrisy.

And he may be an experienced lawyer, but he forgot the cast iron rule of politics: it’s not the offence, it’s the cover-up.

After his protestations of innocence and pleadings about “honesty” and “integrity”, the key question was asked as he attempted to escape by Sky News’s tenacious political editor, Beth Rigby.

What would Sir Keir do if Durham Police rule that he broke the rules but isn’t fined, Beth asked.

Remember, the force said it wouldn’t fine Dominic Cummings over his “eyesight” drive to Barnard Castle because it doesn’t fine people retrospectively.

Sir Keir’s answer: he’ll only quit if he’s fined, an answer that won’t satisfy his critics and could lead to tears on his pilau in the weeks and month ahead.

Of course, we’ve heard this sort of pleading about honesty and integrity from Labour leaders before.

In 1997, not long after becoming prime minister, Tony Blair famously declared during a furore over donations to Labour from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone: “I think I’m a pretty straight sort of guy.”

And curry has also featured before in a Labour leadership crisis.

In 2006, in a Wolverhampton Balti house, Tom Watson – later to become Labour’s deputy leader – masterminded a “curry house plot” with MPs seeking to replace Mr Blair with Gordon Brown.

For Sir Keir, saying he’d step down if he’s fined was obviously a statement of the inevitable.

This performance was indeed a determined attempt at a fightback. But is it the end of the Keir show?

Over to you, Durham Police.


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